Who's in, who's out: Lee, Blatche shoo-ins as Gilas names Final 12 for Fiba World Cup lineup by August 15
From the five new additions to Gilas' pool, Paul Lee has the best shot to make the Fiba World Cup team. Any other changes may be dictated by injuries, or by Chot Reyes' desire to change things up, not for the World Cup but for the Asian Games in Incheon. Jerome Ascano

WITHIN a week, Gilas Pilipinas’ pool of 16 players will be reduced to the final 12 for the Fiba World Cup in Spain, set to start on August 30.

Gilas team manager Aboy Castro said head coach Chot Reyes will be making the "difficult decision" of naming his final 12 players within the week - or about two weeks before the Philippines makes its return to the world basketball championships after almost four decades.

“Maybe before August 15,” was Castro’s brief response to Spin.ph’s question.

Reyes has previously said that he will make his final cut right on the deadline for the submission of the final lineups for the Spain showpiece.

The Gilas pool is made up of 16 players so far, with Rain or Shine’s Paul Lee and Beau Belga, Meralco’s Jared Dillinger, GlobalPort's Jay Washington and new naturalized player Andray Blatche the only additions to the team that punched a ticket to Spain by finishing second in the last Fiba Asia Championship in Manila last August.

The sentimental decision is to bring the entire team that finished runner-up to Iran in the Fiba Asia wars, although one spot was left open in that lineup after Larry Fonacier dropped out of the pool because of lingering injuries.

Castro refused to give any hint on the final Fiba World Cup roster, although Lee appears an obvious candidate to make the cut owing to his smooth transition to international play during the Fiba Asia Cup in Wuhan, China last July.

Gilas consultant Tab Baldwin earlier told Spin.ph that since Gilas is expected to be one of the smallest teams in the world championships, it is imperative for the Filipinos to utilize their speed against taller opponents.

Lee obviously fits the bill.

Lee, the 2012 PBA Rookie of the Year, has the speed, the size and the outside shooting to fill the Fonacier void, although Reyes made it clear to Spin.ph last month that he will be looking at the big picture and not looking for Fonacier's replacement when he makes his final cut.

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The six-foot combo guard averaged 12 points and shot 50 percent from three-point zone during the weeklong tournament in China. He also scored three crucial free throws with no time left to lift Gilas to a pulsating 80-79 win over host China en route to a podium finish for the nationals in the battle for bronze.

NBA free agent Blatche also appears to be a cinch to take on Douthit's spot in the World Cup, not only because of his advantage in talent but also because Gilas paid a great deal of money and went through a rigorous naturalization process to get him on board.

Any other changes may be dictated by injuries or by Reyes' desire to change things up, not for the Fiba World Cup but for the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea where Gilas has a more realistic chance of landing a medal.

Other members of the pool that has been together for almost three weeks now are Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, LA Tenorio, Gary David, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Marc Pingris, Ranidel de Ocampo, Japeth Aguilar, and June Mar Fajardo.

So far, Gilas is 2-0 in tune-up matches after whipping the Miami Pro-Am, 95-74, before beating Elev8, 93-84 last week.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava